2019–20 Australian bushfire season
The 2019–20 Australian bushfire season, colloquially known as the black summer, began with several serious uncontrolled fires in June 2019. Hundreds of fires have been burning, mainly in the southeast of the country, with the major fires, which peaked during December–January, having been since contained and/or extinguished.
, the fires burnt an estimated 18.6 e6ha, destroyed over 5,900 buildings (including 2,779 homes) and killed at least 34 people. An estimated one billion animals have been killed and some endangered species may be driven to extinction. At its peak, air quality dropped to hazardous levels. The cost of dealing with the bushfires is expected to exceed the A$4.4 billion of the 2009 Black Saturday fires, and tourism sector revenues fell below more than A$1 billion. By 7 January 2020, the smoke had moved approximately 11000 km across the South Pacific Ocean to Chile and Argentina. As of 2 January 2020, NASA estimated that 306 e6t of CO had been emitted.
From September 2019 to March 2020, fires heavily impacted various regions of the state of New South Wales. In eastern and north-eastern Victoria large areas of forest burnt out of control for four weeks before the fires emerged from the forests in late December. Multiple states of emergency were declared across New South Wales, Victoria, and the Australian Capital Territory. Reinforcements from all over Australia were called in to assist fighting the fires and relieve exhausted local crews in New South Wales. The Australian Defence Force was mobilised to provide air support to the firefighting effort and to provide manpower and logistical support. Firefighters, supplies and equipment from Canada, New Zealand, Singapore and the United States, among others, helped fight the fires, especially in New South Wales.
During the ensuing crisis, an air tanker and two helicopters crashed during firefighting operations, the air tanker crash resulting in the deaths of the three crew. Two fire trucks were caught in fatal incidents caused directly by fire conditions, killing three fire fighters.
By 4 March 2020, all fires in New South Wales had been extinguished completely (to the point where there were no fires in the state for the first time since July), and the Victoria fires had all been contained.
There has been considerable debate regarding the underlying cause of the intensity and scale of the fires, including the role of fire management practices and climate change, which has attracted significant international attention. Politicians visiting fire impacted areas have received negative responses, in particular Prime Minister Scott Morrison. An estimated A$500 million was donated by the public at large, international organisations, public figures and celebrities for victim relief and wildlife recovery. Convoys of donated food, clothing and livestock feed were sent to affected areas.
Starting from September 2019, fires heavily impacted various regions of the state of New South Wales, such as the North Coast, Mid North Coast, the Hunter Region, the Hawkesbury and the Wollondilly in Sydney's far west, the Blue Mountains, Illawarra and the South Coast, Riverina and Snowy Mountains with more than 100 fires burnt across the state. In eastern and north-eastern Victoria, large areas of forest burnt out of control for four weeks before the fires emerged from the forests in late December, taking lives, threatening many towns and isolating Corryong and Mallacoota. A state of disaster was declared for East Gippsland. Significant fires occurred in the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island in South Australia and parts of the ACT. Moderately affected areas were south-eastern Queensland and areas of south-western Western Australia, with a few areas in Tasmania being mildly impacted.
On 12 November 2019, catastrophic fire danger was declared in the Greater Sydney region for the first time since the introduction of this level in 2009 and a total fire ban was in place for seven regions of New South Wales, including Greater Sydney. The Illawarra and Greater Hunter areas also experienced catastrophic fire dangers, and so did other parts of the state, including the already fire ravaged parts of northern New South Wales. The political ramifications of the fire season have been significant. A decision by the New South Wales Government to cut funding to fire services based on budget estimates, as well as a holiday taken by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, during a period in which two volunteer firefighters died, and his perceived apathy towards the situation, resulted in controversy.
, 18.626 e6ha was burnt or is burning across all Australian states and territories. Ecologists from The University of Sydney estimated 480 million mammals, birds, and reptiles were lost since September with concerns that entire species of plants and animals may have been wiped out by bushfire, later expanded to more than a billion.
In February 2020 it was reported that researchers from Charles Sturt University found that the deaths of nine smoky mice were from "severe lung disease" caused by smoke haze that contained PM2.5 particles coming from bushfires 50 kilometres away.